I’ve spent most of my life chasing the person I want to be. Because 20-year-old me will have better friends, and 25-year-old me will land a killer job, and 30-year-old me will be madly in love. And me 6 months from now will be skinnier, and me a year from now will be more confident, and me some time from now will be better somehow. So much better. For years, this is what I thought. That if I could just wait it out, everything would get better.
It took me a long time to realize that life doesn’t work that way. Because older doesn’t mean happier or easier, and it certainly doesn’t mean better; it just means older. Life isn’t a well plotted screen play, or a checklist, or, God forbid, some waiting room. We have got to stop waiting. Because life isn’t about growing up to be all that we’ve ever wanted; it’s just about growing.
It’s about love, and change, and crying yourself to sleep when it’s all too much. And working at a burger joint, and kissing your best friend even though he might not like you back, and calling your mom every Sunday because you miss her like hell. It’s fights, and promotions, and hospital visits. And then it’s this: another wedding of another one of your college friends, the third one this year, but this time you meet a groomsman who’s just as down on love and you dance all night. And this: he cries when you say “I do.” And this: a kid with your eyes and his dorky ears.
Or maybe not. Maybe it’s this: you write everything, everywhere, all the time, even when the prettier kids make fun of you, and the short teacher with the big nose tells you it’s good. Really good. And this: you’re living in a shoebox, by the skin of your teeth, but there’s a bar across the street that lets you read your poetry, and evey time you do, someone in the crowd finally knows what it feels like to be understood. And this: your words being published. Your words. Being bought by people who could be spending their money on anything at all. And you sit in your twin bed where you’ve written your entire novel, a dozen empty coffee mugs still dirty on the nightstand, and you scream until your lungs burn.
It’s all of these things, and bad things, and good things, and the raw realization that it doesn’t get better or worse, it just gets different. It just changes. Always, always changes. And somehow that makes it more wonderful. Because future you may have the friends, and the boy, and the job, but she didn’t get it by waiting around. She is a product of you. Right now, tomorrow, changing and growing every moment that follows. She is kind, and breathing, and beautiful. But she waits for the day she doesn’t have to worry about paying a mortgage bill, and she worries too often about what people think of her. She still doesn’t have it together.
And maybe that’s what I’ve learned after all this time: nobody has it together. We’re all just here, floundering around in pursuit of being something more. Broken, thoughtful creatures with too much time on our hands, desperate for the companionship of someone who reminds us that we are not alone. We don’t have much of anything figured out. Maybe we never will. But more importantly, I think that’s how it’s supposed to be.
"I don’t want to spend all this time avoiding whatever it is that’s between us and never get our chance.”
She swallowed and asked, “But what if we ruin it?"
"I know,” he said. “But what if we don’t?
What are you so scared of?”
Nothing, she nearly told him. But what she meant was everything. Footsteps in the dead of night, and spiders, and loneliness. Angry boys with quick hands and pretty girls who pocketed secrets. The way things changed: always and without warning. Government conspiracies and medical jargon. And space. Fucking space. Black holes and time warps and the fact that anything at all could exist without boundaries. What scared her? So much, she thought, so very much. But more than anything, “You.
Sometimes I miss you when we’re in the same room. The same bed. I don’t know how to have you close enough, and it frightens me.
“But what if I never love anyone like I loved him?”
"You won’t,“ he said, “You’ll love again, but it will be different.”
She looked up at him, and he swore he saw hope alive in her eyes. Or maybe it was desperation. The line between the two had always been so thin.
Either way he promised, “It will be better.”
Everything about us was electric. From the moment we met, shy eyes peeking past the people that separated us, it was like falling through the sky. Topsy turvy and clutching hands and flipping stomachs. We touched each other like we might never have another night, tip toeing around words like forever. We only understood this moment, that moment. Here, now. But we called it love, and those moments never drifted too far.
Electric. Late nights of too much vodka and other lonely souls that smoked with us in silence and skin that screamed for more and more and more. But mouths that screamed, too. At one another because that boy looked at me for too long, and you forgot your credit card again, and commitment was a word you never understood. Screaming for more and more and more. More than this and that and here and now. Blood rushing from our hearts to our heads as we fell and fell and fell through the sky. Love, we called it. As if a four letter word could keep us from crashing.
But it took me a long time to realize that love isn’t falling. Or crashing. Or electric. It isn’t uncertainty and pain and being so scared you forget why you jumped in the first place. No, love isn’t falling at all; it's landing.